Intro to Disability Studies:

Glossary of Terms

Crip: coming from the derogatory term “crippled,” and the way that metaphors about disabilities are used in derogatory fashion, ‘crip’ turns the term back on itself as a way to acknowledge the history, movement and culture behind disability rights and recognition

Disability-centered design: Design and composition of an environment or products with the purpose of having it be accessible, understood and used by a specific disability. Disability-centered design process is a framework built on methods aiming to include the disabled user in the design process, and to address the shortcomings of universal design (e.g. competing disabilities)

Disability pronouns: Similar to gender pronouns, disability pronouns are personal pronouns referring to one’s preferred self-label e.g. chair-user, neurodivergent, spooner, etc. In a world where people with disabilities can be socially invisible, the ability to identify someone’s preferred disability pronouns can avoid misidentifying disabled folks

Identity-first language**: “Disabled people” as opposed to “people with disabilities” positions disability as an identity category. For disabled people, having their disability(ies) as an aspect of their person describes membership within a wider cultural group, as well as an aspect of their individual body and mind that refuses to be “fixed,” “dealt with” or effaced. To understand disability as an inherent part of an individual’s identity emphasizes that the disability plays a role in who the person is, and reinforces disability as a positive cultural identifier. (For more, see “Person-first Language”)

Person-first language**: “Person with quadriplegia” as opposed to “quadriplegic person” places emphasis on the person instead of on the disability. (For more, see “Identity-first Language”)

Universal Design: Design and composition of an environment or products with the purpose of having it be accessible, understood and used by the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of age, size, ability or disability. Oftentimes, universal design fails to include disabled users as an information source and results in competing disabilities (e.g. visually impaired people’s preference for environments facilitating high volumes of auxiliary noise that competes with cognitively disabled people’s preference for quiet environments). (For more, see “Disability-centered Design”)

**: It is important to note that whether a person with a disability prefers people-first or identity-first language is NOT universal. If you are unsure as to whether you should use people-first or identity-first language in order to be respectful, the best thing to do is to ask people themselves.

What is disability studies?

Read the CripTech Manifesto

Learn about Berkeley’s history with the disability rights movement

Check out UC Berkeley’s Disability Studies Program here!